The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society
a book by Gail and Snell Putney
(our site's book review)
The Putneys' book describes the neurotic tendencies of the average American. These are considered "normal" and even encouraged by the larger social structure. The authors present the theory that many of the social and personal ills of society are more or less based on the alienation of qualities from the self onto others or another person. Remarkably, hate and love both appear as ways of alienating qualities that we feel we cannot express and then either despise (because we don't want to express these qualities) or love (because we wish we could). The implied goal for all of us trapped-in-alienation people is to break this constant alienation process so that we can take control over our lives, however, this is difficult because of how much this process of alienation is encouraged by social pressures to conform to a certain ideal image.
Trapped-in-alienation people need to break their life's constant alienation process so they can take control over their lives
The Putneys say that going beyond projection and alienation is the ultimate psychological goal. Achieving the ability to directly fulfill what he terms "self needs" and provide total self acceptance for the individual appears as the way towards self-actualization and autonomy.
David Riesman's book, The Lonely Crowd, argues that although other-directed individuals (who get run by the social pressures to conform the Putneys are referring to and are alienated people) are crucial for the smooth functioning of the modern bureacratic organization, people's autonomy is compromised. The Lonely Crowd also argues that a society dominated by the other-directed faces profound deficiencies in leadership (think Obama), individual self-knowledge, and human potential. Riesman came before the Putneys and obviously influenced their thinking.
The social pressures to conform end up producing alienated people who operate from a false self
Both books are classics, Riesman's a classic sociological study of the American character, the Putneys' a classic psychological-sociological study of normal American neurosis and alienation. It is great thinkers like these and the Tofflers and Fromm that do the Big Picture thinking so few can do but so many need to learn from. One hopes millions will apply their great wisdom to the current scene and to their own lives, since so little that occurs seems guided even by serious thought, much less great wisdom.